During the reign of Alexander Yannai, the court was mostly Sadducees (Sanhedrin 52b, other places) before Shimon Ben Shetach returned and was able to remove them.

During the period before Shimon Ben Shetach returned, assuming there was a majority of Sadducees, would someone that believed in the Pharisses/Oral Law be obligated to obey their heretical judgements since during that time they were the Sanhedrin?

  • No. Horayot is all about what happens if the sanhedrin err and one knows that they err. Jun 14, 2015 at 13:59
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    The Gemara there is talking about a Beis Din, not the Sanhedrin.
    – HaLeiVi
    Jun 14, 2015 at 14:07
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    related: judaism.stackexchange.com/questions/59921/…
    – Loewian
    Jun 14, 2015 at 16:45
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    @joshwaxman The OP didn't really (at least explicitly) mention that the court was known to have erred, just that they were not Pharisees.
    – Loewian
    Jun 14, 2015 at 17:28
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    @user6591 I didn't bring up any Gemara. I am referring to Sanhedrin 52 which was mentioned by the OP, and is not about He'elem Davar. I am asking from where is the assumption that at any point was the Sanhedrin overtaken by Tzedukim. I don't think that is the case.
    – HaLeiVi
    Jun 14, 2015 at 20:27

1 Answer 1


The Talmud (Moed Katan 17a) infers from a verse in Malachi (2:7) that a rabbi only has authority inasmuch as his active choices reflect the values and teachings of the Torah:

ההוא צורבא מרבנן דהוו סנו שומעניה. א"ר יהודה: היכי ליעביד - לשמתיה צריכי ליה רבנן, לא לשמתיה קא מיתחיל שמא דשמיא? א"ל לרבב"ח: מידי שמיע לך בהא? א"ל: הכי א"ר יוחנן: מאי דכתיב (מלאכי ב, ז) "כי שפתי כהן ישמרו דעת ותורה יבקשו מפיהו כי מלאך ה' צבאות הוא" - אם דומה הרב למלאך ה' יבקשו תורה מפיו ואם לאו אל יבקשו תורה מפיו

There was one young scholar concerning whom evil rumors were current. Said R' Yehuda: "What shall be done in this case? Shall we put him under the ban? The rabbis need him. Shall we not? The name of Heaven will be profaned." And he asked Rabba bar bar Hana: "Do you know anything about such a case?" He answered him: So said R' Yohanan: "It is written (Malachi 2:7): 'The priest's lips are ever to keep knowledge, and the law are they to seek from his mouth, for he is the malach (angel) of the Lord of hosts.' That means: If the Master is equal to an malach, law may be sought from his mouth, but not otherwise."

The Sadducees were a heretical sect and therefore had no standing as halachic authorities and it would be forbidden to treat them as such. See also: https://www.ou.org/jewish_action/06/2015/halachah-and-the-fallen-rabbi-q-a-with-rabbi-hershel-schachter/

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    The sinner in the passage is interpreted as having given in to sexual temptations. However, the argument is even stronger with regard to ideological sins such as those committed by the Sadduccees (e.g. as revealed by the more severe approach of halacha toward the meshumad l'hachis [ideological sinner] relative to the meshumad l'teiavon [sinner from desire].)
    – Loewian
    Jun 14, 2015 at 17:27
  • I think your comment belongs in the answer.
    – Yishai
    Jun 14, 2015 at 19:43

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